TWO local charities which support refugees say they are '100 per cent opposed' to the 'senseless scheme' to house 1,500 asylum seekers at a former airbase near York.

York City of Sanctuary says the plan to 'drop 1,500 asylum-seekers in a tiny isolated village, with no strategic infrastructure and support' smacks of 'out of sight, out of mind'.

The charity's co-ordinator Paul Wordsworth said the government would be effectively 'criminalising' the asylum seekers - many of whom would be traumatised after fleeing war zones in places Iraq, Syria and Yemen - by sending them to a 'prison-like' environment.

Nicola David, the chair of the charity's sister organisation Ripon City of Sanctuary, added: "This is a large group of really traumatised people - not criminals."

The first 60 of what could eventually be 1,500 young men are expected to arrive at the hastily-converted former RAF base at Linton-on-Ouse by the end of the month. They could each stay for up to six months while their asylum applications are processed.

York Press: Linton-on-Ouse

Mr Wordsworth said the environment at the former air base was 'perfectly dire'. "It looks like a prison, even if it is not. There will be a 10pm curfew, and limited access to the site for others - so very few visitors.

"I'm told that there will be a football field and a library. Come on!

"Boris Johnson talks about 'our compassionate society'. He should come and look at Linton, and see if he feels it is a compassionate place to put people. He might find it difficult to party there!"

Nicola David said the asylum seekers would need access to interpreters, legal advice, health and mental health care. There was little evidence of this being in place.

Isolated on the edge of a tiny village, there would be nothing for 1,500 young men to do, she added. There would be buses into York. But the asylum seekers would have an allowance of just £8 a week. A cup of tea in York would cost £3. "What are they going to do?"

Both charities stress that, under government guidelines, asylum seekers should be housed in communities in 'urban conurbations' with access to services and support - not segregated in large groups.

Nicola David said it was wrong to try to label asylum seekers 'illegal'. Under international law, people fleeing war or persecution had the right to claim asylum wherever they chose, she said - not just in the first country they came to.

She added that the 'refugee crisis' had anyway been 'invented' by the government, with the number of people applying for asylum in the UK falling from 84,000 in 2002 to just 29,456 in 2020.

York Press: Linton-on-Ouse, near York

The government talked about hotels for asylum seekers costing taxpayers a fortune, she added - but it had been the government's choice to put them in hotels to allow for social distancing during Covid.

They should now be housed in communities where they had access to services and were not isolated, she said.

The Home Office says those housed at Linton-on-Ouse will be ‘destitute single adult male asylum seekers’ whose asylum applications are under review.

The centre will provide safe and secure accommodation, and is being designed to be as self-sufficient as possible, minimising any impact on local communities and services and reducing the need for those staying there to leave the site, it says.

There will be full-board accommodation, not in dormitories; on-site recreation; exercise facilities; a shop; faith and worship, and medical facilities. It added that there would be a ‘phased approach’ to developing Linton-on-Ouse, with the number of asylum seekers gradually increasing over the coming weeks.

“The new asylum reception centre at Linton-on-Ouse will help end our reliance on hotels which are costing the taxpayer almost £5 million a day,” a Home Office spokesperson said.

“The Home Office is listening carefully to feedback and is committed to widening engagement with key local stakeholders to ensure we minimise impact on the community and services. Our New Plan for Immigration will fix the UK’s broken asylum system, allowing us to support those in genuine need while preventing abuse of the system and deterring illegal entry to the UK.”

The Home Office says engagement with the local community will continue, including by ministers. But it refused to confirm whether Home Secretary Priti Patel herself would visit.